Leaving Neverland – Review
by David Lothian
Neverland: magical island of Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and The Lost Boys, is also the name of Michael Jackson’s eponymous California ranch, seeming like a cruel and tasteless joke in the aftermath of Dan Reed’s documentary. But Leaving Neverland casts damning new light on more than just the minor details, as Jackson’s combined career and legacy is suddenly and sickeningly reevaluated.
It is difficult to convey just how hard a watch this documentary is, yet also how astoundingly powerful and important its content appears. Reed’s camera is one of respect, trust, and compassion when interviewing Jackson’s accusers, who are given centre-stage to tell their story as they would have it told. Each tale presented is equally as shocking as the last, and Reed refuses the audience a comfortable distance, so that we are brought as viewers directly into the trauma these men suffered.
Little need be said of the importance and relevance of this documentary, a powerful product of the post “Me Too” world in which Jackson’s scandal mirrors the earlier worldwide media frenzy surrounding film producer Harvey Weinstein. In fact, it comes as no surprise that there is little cinematic style, technique, or artfulness to speak of, much less review in the traditional sense. Reed has often said in interviews that the sole purpose of this film is to “get a message out there”, to make sure that those abusers with power and status just like Jackson are held to account.
We are given a stomach-turning examination of Jackson’s manipulative grooming of both children and their families, a process that formed the basis of his abuse and one that has upsettingly far-reaching consequences for all involved. Indeed, the viewer is left wondering just how the young boys, now grown men, were ever able to go on after their childhoods were stolen away in such a revolting fashion.
And so, as controversies, denials, backlashes, and reappraisals continue to fly across the world of entertainment, it’s important to remember the trenchant, eye-opening, and vital two-part documentary (and its crucial, traumatic stories), that started it all. I think everyone should see this film.